If you are a hiker or just a general lover of nature, you have certain items on your ‘bucket-list’ that you want to experience. For many people, the ‘Seven Summits’ is at the top of their list of things to do. You may be wondering what the Seven Summits are and what it takes to hike these mercurial and majestic beauties?
The Seven Summits are made up of the highest mountain peaks from each continent. Most of these excursions require a professional guide, that you have a higher skill level, and that you take special equipment to make it safely to the top.
If you are interested in learning more about the Seven Summits and how you can experience their breath-taking beauty, continue reading this guide.
The Feeling of Being at the Top
Nothing beats the rush you get when you finally reach the summit at the end of a majestic mountain top trail, and you’re standing on the snow-covered peak miles above the rest of the world. Your tired muscles are quivering with exhaustion and excitement as you quickly breathe in the thin, crisp mountain air.
You are encompassed in the feeling of being free, as though for just one moment, you are the only human on this Earth. If you have never had the pleasure of that feeling, then it is highly recommended that you begin training so you can start checking off that bucket list.
The Seven Summits of the World
As mentioned earlier, seven mountain peaks make up what is known as ‘The Seven Summits.’ They are made up of the tallest mountain peak from each continent. You may be surprised by the fact that Mount Everest is considered to be the least difficult. This list is based on the combined experiences of hikers all around the world.
The seven summits listed in order of difficulty from greatest to least are:
- Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
- Mount Elbrus, Russia
- Denali, Alaska (formerly known as Mount McKinley)
- Aconcagua, Argentina
- Vision Massif, Antartica
- Puncak Jaya, Oceania
- Mount Everest, Nepal/China
7. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Elevation: 19,341 ft.
Best times to hike: Any months except April and November due to severe daily monsoons
There are seven different routes that one can take to reach the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. They all have their pros and cons and depend on:
- The weather conditions
- The amount of time you have. Read more on how many days it takes to climb Kilimanjaro
- Your skill level
No matter which route you choose, it is necessary that you are in your best possible physical condition.
It is recommended that you train for weeks prior to attempting any of these climbs. Hiking Kilimanjaro will take at least seven days, depending on which route you take. There will be days where you hike for up to 16 hours.
It is also imperative that you are acclimated to the higher elevations, as the higher you get, the harder it is to breathe.
6. Mt. Elbrus, Russia
Elevation: 18,510 ft.
Best times to hike: May – September
Be prepared to take some time off of work for this expedition. You can choose from two different routes. Either way, you are looking at a minimum of 11-12 days for your trek, so make sure you have everything on that checklist you will be given and check it twice.
This is a great hike for those who need to work on their alpine skills. The weather conditions unexpectedly change, so it is important to have gear to cover all types of weather.
5. Denali, Alaska
Continent: North America
Elevation: 20,322 ft.
Best times to hike: May – July
Being in top physical condition is essential, as well as you need to be current on your glacier-travel and winter camping skills because you will definitely need them for this trek. You had also better set aside plenty of vacation time for this trip. There is a reason they call this trek ‘The Great One.’ Typically, this expedition takes about three-weeks round-trip and requires pulling a sled overloaded with all of the necessary gear for survival.
It is prudent to have a GPS and/or a map and compass because there are no marked trails to the summit. You can expect to encounter extreme weather on this trip, from:
- The baking sun
- Gale-force winds
- To snow
Be sure to have the proper clothing to keep you warm and dry. This is definitely an expedition that would best be taken with a guide who knows the safest and most scenic ways to get to the top.
4. Aconcagua, Argentina
Continent: South America
Elevation: 22,838 ft.
Best times to hike: December – March
Aconcagua is the second highest peak of the seven. This hike is considered a ‘trekking peak’; however, that does not mean that it is easy by any means. If you plan on climbing to Aconcagua’s peak, you had better be in good physical condition. This climb can take multiple days, depending on weather conditions and skill levels. You will be expected to carry approximately 45-50 pounds of gear for around six hours per day.
This hike is known for having bad weather that can quite frequently cause people to turn back. Although this is no easy trek, it is well worth the effort when you get to the top. Beautiful scenery and breath-taking views of the Andes mountains await you at the summit.
3. Vision Massif, Antartica
Elevation: 16,050 ft.
Best times to hike: Summer season
The only way to get to Vision Massif is by using exclusive guide services. The peak of Vison Massif is 660 nautical miles from the South Pole. There are many stipulations and requirements that you must meet before you can take this trip.
Be sure that you have everything in order and approved before you get there and are told that you have to leave. There are two campsites above the base camp along this trip; Low Camp and High Camp. This is another long trip, so be prepared to be away from home for at least 15-20 days, including travel time.
This is one of the coldest treks with temperatures dropping down to -40°ᶜ, be sure to pack those extra base-layers and down jumpsuits.
2. Puncak Jaya, Indonesia
Elevation: 16,024 ft.
Best times to hike: Year-round
This trek takes 14-20 days, depending on your skill level and the weather. This is the only trek on the list that requires actual rock climbing, so it is imperative that you are experienced in this discipline and up to date on your knowledge of rope work. If hiking the entire route, you will begin in the lower jungle and work your way up through the jungle to another base camp where there is a helicopter pad for those who don’t want to do the initial hike from the jungle and prefer to be flown in.
This trek also requires that you have all of your paperwork in order before taking off. There are many permits required in order to take this trek.
It is also required that you have a guide escort you. They will know the safest ways to go and how to handle the local terrain and weather. Once you reach the summit, you will be overcome by the view of the Carstensz Pyramid and glad you made an effort to get to the top.
1. Mount Everest, Nepal/China
Elevation: 29,029 ft.
Best times to hike: Typical expedition lasts around two months, beginning in March
Mount Everest is the mountain peak with the highest elevation and Its located on the border of Nepal and China, in the Asian continent and the highest mountain in the world. Its summit is 29,035 feet (8,850 meters) above sea level.
This expedition is best taken with an experienced Sherpa guide. In fact, it is one of the requirements of going on this hike. While it may be listed as the least difficult trek on the list, it is by no means an easy trip.
Blistering cold and ever-changing weather make this a challenging trek. It can take weeks of preparation for this excursion. Being acclimated to the high altitudes and low oxygen levels is one of the hardest things for people. This hike also requires special permits and requirements, so make sure you have checked all of the requirements boxes before you take off.
Being Prepared Prevents Possible Disaster
Having the right gear and clothing is imperative to successfully climbing these mountain peaks without having to be rescued. If you do not have the proper gear, you can freeze when you get to the higher elevations. Once you are up that high, you can’t just run back to the base camp and grab an extra layer.
Experts recommend that you have multiple pairs of footwear depending on which peaks you are climbing. Generally speaking, the higher the elevation, the more insulated you need to be.
Some of the basic items you should include in your pack are the following:
- 1-2 pairs of thermal long-underwear tops and bottoms
- 3 pairs of boots
- 1 pair of 7,000-meter double-boots
- 1 pair of 8,000-meter double-boots
- 1 pair of sturdy trekking boots
- Big down jacket (800 fill)
- Crampon ice cleats
- Down jumpsuit
- Figure-eight carabiner
- For upper body clothing, use wool or synthetic materials
- Hand protection
- Lightweight liner gloves
- Midweight climbing gloves
- Heavy-duty mittens
Hardware and accessories:
- Hiking backpack
- Ice axe
- Insulated pants
- Jacket with a hood
- Lightweight Gortex™ shell pants
- Locking carabiners
- Non-locking carabiners
- Nylon trekking pants
- Sattelite phone/weather radio
- Sleeping bag rated for extreme conditions
- Sleeping pad/air mattress
- Soft-shell climbing pants
- Trekking poles
Not Just a Stroll in the Park
These hikes are not for the faint of heart or the weekend stroller. If you plan on tackling these treks, you had better be in the best shape of your life and be fully versed in survival skills because you will encounter extreme weather and physically challenging conditions. Physical strength is a must, but just as important is a positive attitude and the will to keep going when it gets tough.
Shaping-Up for the Summit
As mentioned previously, you must be in the best physical condition possible. You can do the following things to get physically prepared for these strenuous excursions:
- Altitude training. Get your lungs used to less oxygen. Train at a higher elevation whenever possible to increase your stamina.
- Cardio training. Keep that heart pumping strong. This is another important key to not passing out when you reach higher elevations.
- Core training. Work those muscles. Get a good aerobic and weight routine in place and stick to it. It will pay off when you get to the top.
- Proper Diet. Eating healthy and heartily is important for your body to perform the best it can. Hiking and climbing will burn an extreme amount of carbs and calories, so be sure that you are prepared with foods that provide energy and strength.
Don’t Go Up Alone – Hire a Guide
Many people think that they are experienced enough to take one of these hikes on their own without a professional guide. This can sometimes be a deadly mistake. Unless you are an expert climber who has already conquered these hikes, it is not recommended that you tackle them on your own. Also a Mountain like Kilimanjaro the national park authorities requires you to use a guiding company.
There are expert hiking guides that climb these peaks for a living. An experienced guide can lead you safely to the peak and add an extra level of awesomeness to your hike by keying you in on tips and local information that you may not get if you do it on your own.
Other Hiking Tips and Advice For Tackling the Seven Summits
- Always tell someone where you are going and how long you expect to be gone. In case of an emergency, they will have a general idea of where to search. If possible, leave a map of the trail you plan on hiking.
- Bring plenty of dehydrated/non-perishable food and water.
- Bring sunscreen and chapstick
- Don’t go it alone. Always bring a hiking buddy.
- Go slowly to avoid altitude sickness.
- Have an emergency plan in place.
- Have some sort of emergency shelter with you, such as a tent or tarp in case of unexpected extreme weather.
- If you take medication regularly, be sure to bring a few doses with you in case you cannot get back to your base in time.
- Keep a basic first-aid kit on hand
- Keep flashlights/fresh batteries
- Keep waterproof matches
- Pay attention to the weather as it can change rapidly at higher elevations.
- Stay on the trail (if there is one). Don’t wander around aimlessly, as you’ll likely get lost. If you do decide to go rogue, make sure that you have the proper gear with you and that someone knows the general direction in which you have gone.
- Stay well hydrated and eat plenty of high calorie/carb foods.
- The following tech devices are helpful when taking any kind of trek:
- Satellite phone
- Walkie talkies
- Weather radio
- Wear proper clothing/gear.
Get Your Wallet Out – Climbing is The 7 Summits is Expensive
Not only do you need to physically and mentally prepare for these strenuous hikes, but you need to financially prepare because these excursions are not easy on the pocketbook.
You can expect to shell out thousands of dollars. by the time you:
- Get your gear
- Get trained
- Get the itinerary planned and paid for
You will also have to be sure that all of your identification is up-to-date:
- State IDs, etc.
- Most of these hikes require special permits and other special requirements in order to go to the top
All of these are added expenses that you need to consider when planning your trek.
The following list is a general idea of what each trip to the summit will cost you, from the least expensive to the most expensive:
Mt. Elbrus, Russia
Puncak Jaya, Oceania
Vision Massif, Antartica
Mt. Everest, Nepal/China
Total cost for all seven trips:
Nine Interesting Facts About the Seven Summits
- Denali is the farthest north of the seven summits at 63° north latitude.
- In 1985 Richard Bass was the first person to climb all seven summits.
- Kilimanjaro is composed of three volcanic cones.
- Mt. Vinson was named after a Congressman from Georgia named Carl Vinson, who served from 1935-1961
- Some people have different definitions of what the seven summits are depending on what they consider to be the true continents.
- The youngest person to date to climb all seven summits was a 13-year-old boy.
- Those wishing to climb to the peak of Mount Everest must engage in a Puja ceremony, seeking permission from the Mountains Gods to climb. This is an ancient Buddist ceremony usually performed by two or three monks at the base camp before a climb.
- To date, only around 280 people have successfully climbed all seven summits.
- To date, the oldest person to climb the seven summits was 76 years old.
The Seven Highest Mountains in the World
The seven highest mountains in the world are all located in the Himalayan mountain range.
The End Result is Well Worth the Time and Effort
After all of the time and effort you have taken to get to the top of the peak, you will be greeted with the most breath-taking views that are hard to put into words. It’s a feeling that simply cannot be described.
If you have a passion for nature and experiencing the things that make you realize how truly small we are in this world, then these seven treks may be just what you need. Get yourself in shape, start planning, and book your expedition today!